Bye-bye, Bob and Bob

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Since moving into our home I've been desperately trying to get some shade on one side of our house. But the trees I planted aren't cutting it, so I'm cutting them.

The entire back of our house faces the southwest, so it gets lots and lots of sun. That's great in the winter; on clear afternoons the direct sun means our furnace doesn't run for hours at a time. But in the summer, the air conditioner never gets a break.

Our living room, kitchen, master bedroom and my office are all on that side of the house, and during the afternoons the heat can be terrific, especially in my upstairs office. Needing shade fast, I planted a pair of paulownia trees five summers ago. These trees, which can grow up to 15' and more a year, were supposed to be our summertime saviors, and for a couple years looked like they would be. The one I planted first – Bob – is over 20' tall and 15' wide. The second one I planted a year later – Little Bob – is 15' tall. The trees get huge leaves, and cast lots of shade.

Except when they're dead, which they are. Both trees lived up to their promise of rapid growth, but never seem to make it through the winter. The root systems are fine, so right now I have a 20'-tall dead tree with about a hundred little saplings coming up around the base. It's been a continuing cycle – grow 15' a year, die; grow 15' again the next year.

So I'm cutting them down and starting over again with tulip poplars, another fast-growing species. On the plus side, Bob's main trunk is nearly a foot thick and 6' high up to where it branches out. Little Bob's trunk is 5' high and a bit more than 6" thick. So if I cut carefully, I can actually get enough lumber to make a few boxes or something, which is my plan.

I've made things from trees that I've cut, but this is the first time I'll make something from trees I've grown from saplings and harvested. I'll need to stack and dry the wood for a while, but eventually I'll be able to work with the lumber, even if I don't get a lot of it.

But in the meantime, it looks like I’ve entered an entirely new phase of woodworking as a lumber grower. When I finish this blog, I'm changing into grubby clothes, grabbing my chainsaw, and heading for the backyard.

I'll get back to woodworking, but for now I'm a lumberjack. And I'm OK.

Till next time,

A.J.

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